The Bilbao River Estuary, a sea port

The river estuary stands at the core of the history of Bilbao and its surrounding area. The city was founded on its banks and owes its economic and social development to it. Its 14 km of water are Bilbao’s gateway to the sea.

This area shows the Bilbao river estuary as a tidal, natural, navigable waterway that has historically adapted and adjusted itself to the needs of economic, trade and maritime activities. The original course of the river has gradually been changed by channelling, clearing and dredging to make it more navigable. After centuries of port operations on the river, changing economic circumstances in the late 19th century and the greater demands that came with them led to a gradual shifting of port facilities downstream towards the El Abra bay at the mouth of the estuary. This gave rise to the founding of the current Port of Bilbao, which has become one of the busiest ports on Europe’s Atlantic coast. It is a modern facility that maintains links with over 800 other ports worldwide.

Would you like to hear this story in more detail? Visit us!

Stand-out exhibits

Civitates Orbis Terrarum engraving (earliest known picture of Bilbao)


Chart showing the original course of the river.

Other permanent exhibitions

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